Major Giving: Right Person, Right Prospect, Right Ask at the Right Time
Major gifts are a critical element of every successful fundraising program and one of the most efficient and effective ways to raise funds. In his session at Fundraising Day in New York, "Introduction to Major Giving," Mike Hoffman, chairman of Changing Our World, a fundraising and philanthropic consulting firm, highlighted the critical role major gifts play in fundraising for nonprofit organizations and explored strategies for moving major-gift prospects through the moves-management continuum.
A major theme was the importance for nonprofits to recognize, understand and adjust to the changing world around us. Giving generally aligns with the economy, and although the economy has been struggling and remains uncertain, giving still remains fairly predictable. It is the mind-set of donors that has changed. Today’s donors want impact. They want to know their dollars are providing real value to the charities they support. It is the fundraiser’s job to provide them with that opportunity.
With the nature of major-donor philanthropy changing, so must the nature of major-donor fundraising strategies.
There are various roles that major gifts play in any successful fundraising endeavor — from sustainable support and diversifying revenue — to driving down the cost ratio of fundraising. In order to establish and maintain a successful major-donor fundraising program, the following are required:
- A long-term scope for success is necessary. Cultivation and solicitation are lengthy processes.
- Major donors must be brought into involvement with an organization. It is about engagement, not money.
- People respond based on who is asking. Charismatic, personable people trump case. People give to people.
- You must ask in order to receive. Asking doesn’t cost anything. Have fallback strategies!
In addition, the following key components cannot be overlooked in the major-gift process:
- Develop a strong case for support. The need of an organization is a given, but it’s whether the case answers the following questions that will ensure donor confidence: What is your solution? What is your approach? What will this achieve? How do you/will you measure your results? How is it sustainable?
- Different donors have different value propositions. Individuals give for various reasons. Be aware of why your donors are giving.
- Prospect identification and prioritization are key. Identify your major donors based on wealth and philanthropy, interest, and personal/professional access points. Use a top-down, inside-out approach, and map the networks between you and your donors. Don’t forget to develop and engage your leaders. They are already involved. Bring them closer through cultivation and engagement.
The economy and philanthropic landscape are always changing. As the landscape continues to change, nonprofits must strive to understand these changes and shift their strategies to keep donors engaged. There are individuals out there willing to support your mission and organization. By staying in tune with your organization, your donors and the surrounding environments, you can continue to secure the major gifts needed to ensure a sustainable fundraising program that allows you to fulfill your mission now and in the future.